In a lot of ways, the North Texas men’s basketball team will be looking at a mirror image of itself today when the Mean Green takes on Middle Tennessee — at least in terms of how the teams are constructed.
UNT is remarkably deep this season, just like MTSU. The Mean Green is loaded with quality guards and athletic big men, just like MTSU.
What has separated the teams — at least since the beginning of last year — is their production on the court, which is something UNT is out to change beginning today, when both the Mean Green men and women will be in action.
The UNT men (11-8, 2-3 Conference USA) will face MTSU (12-7, 2-2) in a 7 p.m. game at the Super Pit, while the UNT women will visit Florida Atlantic at 4 p.m.
The UNT men are coming off a key win over a solid UAB team with victories over North Carolina and Rutgers on its resume.
“That is a great win for us,” UNT men’s coach Tony Benford said. “To get back into this [C-USA] race — after we felt like we gave a couple away — we have to hold serve at home.”
UNT lost its first two games in league play at the Super Pit before playing well down the stretch and posting a 76-65 win over the Blazers.
Alzee Williams came off the bench to score a team-high 18 points for the Mean Green, which was able to score in transition and slow UAB down with its 2-3 zone defense. Williams leads UNT with an average of 12.6 points per game.
“Every day in practice we stress our break,” Williams said. “That is one of the main points of our game —to get out and run.”
MTSU is coming off a close loss at Tulsa. MTSU guard Tweety Knight hit a layup to tie the game before Tulsa’s James Woodard answered with a 3. That clutch shot with four seconds left vaulted Tulsa to a 58-53 win.
While MTSU has struggled at times this season, it has several of the same players who helped lead the Blue Raiders to the NCAA tournament last year, not to mention a veteran head coach in Kermit Davis.
“They have a great coach and a great team,” Benford said. “They have a lot of depth like we have. They are strong, physical and have good size.”
Senior forward Shawn Jones leads MTSU with an average of 14.2 points per game.
MTSU swept UNT last season on its way to the NCAA tournament, while the Mean Green struggled to a 12-20 finish. The Mean Green will look to turn the tables and continue a late-season run today in a game against a team with a similar makeup.
The UNT women (8-10, 2-3) also can even their conference record today after knocking off Florida International on Wednesday in the first game of a two-game trip that will conclude with their game at FAU.
Junior forward Briesha Wynn led UNT in its 66-59 win over the Golden Panthers with a career-high 21 points.
Alexis Hyder banked in a 3-pointer in the final two minutes that turned out to be the key shot as UNT earned its second win in three games.
Wynn and Hyder are averaging 10.5 and 10.1 points, respectively, to lead UNT.
FAU (11-7, 1-4) has lost three straight, including a 64-63 decision against Louisiana Tech in its last outing.
The Owls have been without injured senior forward Chenise Miller, their leading scorer at 13.4 points an outing, for the last five games. Senior guard Latavia Dempsey is FAU’s top remaining scorer at 13.1 points per game.
A win today would send UNT into a two-game homestand against Tulsa and UAB at .500 in league play.
Fans can get photo with bowl trophy today
UNT fans will have a chance to get their photo taken with the Heart of Dallas Bowl trophy during the Mean Green’s game against MTSU.
The football trophy will be on display through halftime.
UNT beat UNLV 36-14 for its first bowl win since 2002.
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 and via Twitter at @brettvito.